Dear Friends of Second Church,
A friend of mine, Rev. Quinn Caldwell, wrote a wonderful Advent reflection last year that begins: “There’s waiting and then there’s waiting.”
He means that there’s a difference between the waiting we associate with busy-ness and hassle, and the waiting that is part of our deepest hopes or hurts.
I don’t think I’ve ever really made that distinction before. Of course, waiting for a parking spot at the mall and waiting for an estranged sibling to call are very different kinds of waiting. So are waiting for a package to arrive (even an important one!) and waiting to see what a new relationship becomes.
It isn’t even that waiting for “good things” is different than waiting for “bad” ones, although that’s surely true. Nor is it that some things take longer than others, although we all know that’s true, too.
Curiously, “gratification,” “gratitude” and “grace” share the same Latin root—they all point to a sense of thankfulness, favor, esteem or good will. To me, this gets at the question of waiting…because what a world of difference there is between them. Our thankfulness to whom and for what says a lot about our priorities and focus. What are we truly waiting for? The momentary gratification when the cashier opens a new register (and I get to be at the front of a much shorter line) is not the same as the gratitude I feel for being out on a Sunday afternoon, buying our family Christmas tree…and neither compares to the grace of loving and being loved by those with whom I’ll share that tree, or ultimately, the grace of what their love teaches me about the grace of God, which is grace in all its fullness.
What are we waiting for? This is what the modern Christmas so often misunderstands. So much of it seems about gratification. Yet what we are truly waiting for must be closer to gratitude or grace.
These waiting of weeks before Christmas is a chance to consider what it is that we’re thankful for, and to whom we offer that thanks. It’s a time to consider what it is in ourselves, our relationships, and our world that remains unfinished, unresolved, or in need of repair. So often, it’s that finishing, that resolution, or that healing that we’re really waiting for—and the gratitude we feel, and the grace we encounter is about a sense of deeper connection to others and to God.
That’s what Christmas is really about.
As Quinn Caldwell says, “There’s waiting and then there’s waiting.” May we all make time to address that deeper waiting in these coming weeks.
See you in church,